In our days filled with uncertainty, frustration, and sadness, you always have to be on the hunt for silver linings. One such lining I found is that due to sports being shut down, I can write about almost whatever* I want because the #content train needs fuel.
No one cares if it’s bootleg 87 octane that was definitely in someone’s gas tank before it was removed and bought from a gentleman named Tommy Tuberville, who sells it in 5-gallon cans out of conversion van with no engine.
*Well, almost anything. My idea of writing a parody David Kellum play-by-play call of an imaginary nine-inning baseball game is apparently considered “not what we’re looking for” and “do you really think someone is going to read 45,000 words of that?”.
As a result of this need, I get to write about our dinger-hitting sons of 2020 and a home run that happened 15 years ago. Somewhat related, THE PASSAGE OF TIME IS CRUEL AND UNRELENTING BECAUSE 2005 FEEL LIKE SEVEN YEARS AGO, EIGHT TOPS.
Before the 2020 season came to a close, the Ole Miss baseball team was hitting home runs at a rate we love to see. In 17 games, of which they won the last 16, they were on pa — wait.
Oh, I’m sorry, is that not a thing other teams did? 16 straight? They should’ve tried doing that. Maybe take some pointers from Ole Miss next time? We’ll send you an instructional video.
As I was saying, Ole Miss hit 37 home runs in 17 games, which is good for 2.2 a game. Right about here is where I would insert a YouTube montage of all the dingers, but not one of you cowards has made, edited, and uploaded said video for public consumption, so y’all are going to have imagine a six-minute video of nothing but dingers.
Ignoring your failures, compare the 2020 numbers to last season when they averaged 1.1 a game and 2018 when it was 1.2 a game. If this seasons’ numbers held in the neighborhood of two, we’re talking about 120-ish home runs, which would be just shy of 50 more than 2019 and 40 or so more than 2018. Would watch and holler!
Unfortunately, for understandable reasons, there won’t be any more dinger-watching and hollerin’ this season. We won’t get a chance to see a home run that is stuck in our minds 15 years later, despite every effort by our dumb brains to replace it with key plot points from the Fast & Furious franchise.
The home run that survived my brain’s attempt to purge and replace it with something I knew about Con Air then forgot was Stephen Head’s bomb of bombs against Purdue in 2005. I’ve briefly written about it before on this esteemed site, but the time to expand on that experience is now.
As a refresher for those of you unable to recall an out-of-conference regular season college baseball game from a decade and a half ago, Ole Miss played Purdue in a three-game series in Oxford. In Game Two on Saturday, they won 20-7, which was highlighted by Head pitching six innings, allowing one run, and hitting a home run that landed in 2009.
I was at this game in the student section in right field and watched said home run fly over my head. Here’s what I wrote prior to last season:
...I was in right field when some Purdue pitcher with an ERA probably north of 32 had the privilege of trying to get Stephen Head out. I recall talking with someone and then stopping mid-sentence because I heard a ping I’d never heard before.
I turned and realized everyone in the grandstand was on their feet, screaming OOOOHHHHHHHHHHH. I looked up, and by some miracle, spotted the ball and watched it sail over my head, right into the middle of the DAGGUM TENNIS COURTS.
Friends, I did not have a tape measure that day, but I assure you, that ball traveled somewhere around 731 feet (roughly). To this day, I have never heard a sound like that again or seen a ball go that far in person.
I stand by my measurement analysis, though it easily could’ve been 903 feet give or take.
To set the scene for this slice of history, we turn to our friend Google Maps, which is probably not our friend but spying on us and recording every location we’ve ever viewed! Here’s a shot of Swayze Field as it lives today.
The area marked “Did not exist” did, in fact, not exist at the time of this home run. The space was there, but the terraces and general order did not. From 2019:
Because this took place roughly around the time of the Truman administration, it was well before the Ole Miss put some order and money into the student section. The only rule at that time was there are no rules. Think Mad Max vibe, minus the shoulder pad spikes and murder. I don’t recall any murder.
Time and the U FANCY student section have made me unsure, but to the best of my memory, this is the approximate area in which I was standing.
For the history books and national archives, I remember petting a dog and then engaging in conversation, not with the dog (maybe a poor choice?) but humans. While jabbering away, here were the locations of the important players in this scene:
And the moment of said ping contact:
Through sophisticated tracking technology that is mostly me guestimating the flight path of the ball, we’re able to see how far Head’s home run went.
This technology also allows us to view my real time reaction to the ball bouncing across the tennis courts four years away from home plate:
And we close with a final look at the scene’s important players:
It’s weird how unimportant things remain lodged in our brains. Maybe telling the story over and over again helps keep them there. Whatever the reason, no obscure details from a Nic Cage movie (CASEY POE’S BIRTHDAY IS JULY 14TH) will ever push this memory out of my dumb brain.
It really, really stinks we won’t get any more memories from a team that looked like they had something special in the works. I take comfort in knowing that those memories probably would’ve been erased by my brain to make room for the scenes when Nic Cage inevitably guest stars in at least four Fast & Furious movies.